The administrator of the $20 billion fund set up by BP to compensate individuals and businesses hurt by last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill said Thursday new rules are being formulated to make payouts more generous for hard-hit shrimpers.
Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg told a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing he hopes to announce the rules within two weeks.
He agreed with concerns from shrimpers that the length and extent of damage they have suffered because of the April 2010 disaster has been more significant than first thought.
“I think we’ve got to do better for the shrimpers,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg remains under fire for the slow pace of payments and for denying many claims. Eighteen months after the spill, the fund has paid $5.5 billion to 213,408 claimants. More than 300,000 other claimants have been denied compensation. Feinberg agreed in July to a Justice Department audit. He said at the hearing the audit hasn’t started. A Justice spokesman said in a statement the agency is receiving input from officials along the Gulf and the audit is expected to start before the end of the year.
The committee chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said that despite assurances from the White House following the oil spill that BP would be held fully accountable “that does not appear to be the case.” He said the number of people paid to date, considering how many have applied for money, is “simply unacceptable.”
Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the committee and a frequent critic of BP, offered support for BP’s efforts with regard to compensating victims through the fund.
“Here I believe the company did the right thing,” Markey said. He said “the fund kept families and businesses afloat.”
An Associated Press review published in February that included interviews with legal experts, government officials and more than 300 Gulf residents found a process beset by red tape and delay, and at the center of it all a fund administrator whose ties to BP have raised questions about his independence.